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MOSCOW, February 25, /ITAR-TASS/. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, said Tuesday the spiritual unity of the Russian and Ukrainian nations should be preserved.
“At a time when difficult and yet unclear changes are taking place in the life of the Ukrainian people, we pray that these changes would be not to the detriment but for greater good, that they would not break the single spiritual body and space of Holy Rus,” the patriarch said.
“We pray… that the Lord would have mercy for the Ukrainian people, grant it peace, tranquility, calm, welfare, pacify human passions and fill people’s hearts with love,” the hierarch said in Moscow’s Epiphany Cathedral at a liturgy in honor of St. Alexis, the metropolitan of Kiev and Moscow who had led the Russian Orthodox Church in the 14th century.
“The united Holy Rus is the great heritage of Prince Vladimir. St. Alexis, the last of Kiev metropolitans who was de facto the metropolitan of Moscow, did everything possible to preserve that spiritual unity,” he said.
“And today we specially prayed to St. Alexis, the metropolitan of Kiev, Moscow and All Rus... that he would ask the Savior to save the historical Rus from spiritual splits and feud, to preserve our Church in unity and unite with it all those who separated from it due to various political and other circumstances,” Patriarch Kirill said.
The Russian Church hierarch’s words came as Ukraine got plunged into a political turmoil and its president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted following violent protests that have claimed dozens of lives and left hundreds injured.
Ukraine has been hit by anti-government protests since November 2013. A new wave of riots started February 18 and eventually caused Yanukovich to flee his residence outside Kiev. The Verkhovna Rada, the country’s unicameral parliament, appointed its new speaker, Alexander Turchinov, as interim head of state and set early presidential elections for May 25. Yanukovich called the developments “a coup.” His exact whereabouts are unknown.
A doorkeeper of the Pochayev Lavra - a well-known Orthodox Christian monastery in western Ukraine - told Itar-Tass by phone on Tuesday that the entrance to the Lavra had been blocked by schismatics.
Kievan Rus, a medieval state that comprised some parts of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, was baptized by Prince Vladimir in the year 988. The canonical Ukrainian and Belarusian Orthodox Churches are subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The once united Ukrainian Orthodox Church split in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, into supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate and people who sought an independent national church. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized around the world, whereas the other churches, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, are not.